Story by Ashley Traylor, Assistant News Editor
“It was a miracle I did not die”
Murray State University’s former Residential Director, Dakota Fields, was hospitalized by the James H. Richmond explosion, days before he was set to start his new job as the complex director at Western Illinois University.
“At the moment in time, I am just trying to get back to some normalcy, to be honest,” Fields said. “The whole experience, or ordeal rather, has been a life changer.”
Fields was the only person inside Richmond when authorities said a gas leak caused the building to explode. He was severely injured and flown to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, and he said it is a miracle he survived.
Fields lost most of his belongings in the explosion, yet, two items were left unscathed: his Bible and devotional.
“I already have scars forming from the accident and will have them for life, but you know, I would take those of the latter any day,” Fields said. “God saved me that day and he wanted the world to know by letting that photo go public.”
Fields shared the photo with The Murray State News. He said his Bible and devotional disappeared when crews cleaned up the debris.
Photo courtesy of Dakota Fields
“I would truly love to get those back because it is truly a God given miracle that I survived,” Fields said.
A social work group on campus created a GoFund Me page for Fields, which was deactivated after raising $540 in donations.
Fields continues to recover in Illinois and says he is taking it one day at a time.
“I have had to certainly take it slowly and listen to my body, but I can do small every day to day tasks without too much trouble,” Fields said. “However, I am still nowhere near 100 percent.”
Video surveillance obtained by The Murray State News reveals moments of stillness before the inside of Richmond enveloped in a cloud of dark smoke.
Painters appear to be inside the building, but left about an hour and a half prior to the blast.
The force of impact from the explosion caved in the main entrance doors, forcing firefighters to pry the doors open to get inside. Once inside, the video shows them walking around the first floor lobby responding to the impacted area.
Before and after pictures of the front desk contrast the calmness to the chaos of paperwork, binders and debris strewn throughout the lobby after the explosion occurred.
EXCLUSIVE: Video from inside New Richmond Hall before, during and after the explosion on Jun. 28. Videos were posted with the consent of Dakota Fields.
- An explosion that damaged James H. Richmond Hall resulted from a natural gas leak, Kentucky State Police spokesperson, Jody Cash, said.
- Cash said no foul play was suspected and the case was ruled not criminal.
- Hester, Hart and Lee Clark Residential Halls and Winslow Dining Hall were also damaged.
- The Kentucky State Fire Marshal is handling the investigation.
Stay with The Murray State News for the latest information.